What five successful business owners learnt in 2014 – and what they’ll change in 2015

As 2014 starts to draw to a close it’s time to reflect on the year that has been and look to the year ahead.

Here, five business owners reveal what the major learnings were this year, and what they won’t repeat next year:

Daniel Flynn, co-founder and managing director, Thankyou Group

What I’ve learnt: That as much as I’d love to think otherwise, brands aren’t built in a day. Over the last 12 months we’ve had huge growth, and our sales reflect that, but we’ve still got a long way to go in terms of raising brand awareness to help us make a bigger impact through our projects. With strong competition in the market and consumers becoming harder and harder to reach, our challenge is to keep generating creative ways to achieve cut-through.

What changes we’ll make: As a team, we’ll be working hard to not allow ourselves to be complacent in our rapid growth, and setting higher benchmarks and targets to help us achieve our bold goals.

Nexba Beverages, co-founders, Drew Bilbe & Troy Douglas

What I’ve learnt: We learnt that partnerships are absolutely key for small businesses to ensure sustainable growth. We partnered with grocery experts CTD, which helped us secure the expertise needed to launch in Coles, which was Nexba’s biggest launch to date. We learnt that as small business owners you don’t have the luxury of costly mistakes, and the best way to guard against this is by partnering with other like-minded businesses and people.

What changes we’ll make: In 2015, we’re prioritising partnerships as a core business driver for growth. We’ll focus on brand partnerships for promotions and product sampling and expert partnerships, such as engaging an executive team of industry leaders to make sure we stay on track as business owners.

Brandon Cowan, founder, Crazy Dog Apps

What I’ve learnt: Very recently, I’ve started pre-qualifying people on my website by having a ‘budget’ field on my site as I noticed the number one reason people wouldn’t get an app made is because they didn’t realise how much it costs. Then I’d follow up with a phone call. If my services aligned, I’d offer to meet in person. I’ve just started using this strategy very recently, but the early results have surprised me with how successful it has been.

What changes I’ll make: I’ll be making sure I offer to meet potential clients face to face by offering to buy them a drink. I’ve noticed that sharing more personal stories and getting to know the client better works better too, as I get to know who I’m working with and it’s just more fun. It’s been a huge resource for me, as I now spend very little effort when I’m trying to get a client.

Edward Thirlwall, chief executive, Supercheap Storage

What I’ve learnt: That even very small changes to a business, such as changes in management, staff or assets, can have a huge impact. Good staff can be worth their weight in gold and the recruitment fees alone mean that working on staff retention can have a big impact on your bottom line.

What changes I’ll make: We need to retain good members of staff and attract more high quality employees and work on creating an improved company culture. We will also be working on our business processes to make us more profitable and attractive as a franchise.

Pete Watman, founder PopUp Brands

What I’ve learnt: We’ve learnt that we can’t be everything to everyone. Several big clients wanted us to fundamentally change to fit their business needs. Doing so might have delivered short-term gains, but would have severely limited growth. But we’ve also learnt to be more open to potential partnerships. And we’ve learnt to be led by what the market needs. And to unemotionally make decisions based on as much hard evidence as you can find.

What changes I’ll make: Next year will be about hiring to build the team, working with our new partners, and growth. We won’t waste time where we don’t see value. We are selective with our time and enter every meeting with a clear goal. That applies especially to potential investors. And we’ll be bringing on at least one new major investor early in the new year.

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